word-forming element of Latin origin meaning "bad, badly, ill, poorly, wrong, wrongly," from French mal (adv.), from Old French mal (adj., adv.) "evil, ill, wrong, wrongly" (9c.), from Latin male (adv.) "badly," or malus (adj.) "bad, evil" (fem. mala, neuter malum), from Proto-Italic *malo-, from PIE *mol-o-, probably from PIE root *mel- (3) "false, bad, wrong."
Most Modern English words with this element are 19c. coinages. It generally implies imperfection or deficiency, but often it is simply negative (as in malfeasance, malcontent). It is equivalent to dys- and caco- of Greek origin and Germanic mis- (1).
c. 1300, "negotiate, bargain, deal with," from Old French traitier "deal with, act toward; set forth (in speech or writing)" (12c.), from Latin tractare "manage, handle, deal with, conduct oneself toward," originally "drag about, tug, haul, pull violently," frequentative of trahere (past participle tractus) "to pull, draw" (see tract (n.1)).
Meaning "to entertain with food and drink without expense to the recipient by way of compliment or kindness (or bribery)" is recorded from c. 1500. Sense of "deal with, handle, or develop in speech or writing" (early 14c.) led to the use in medicine "to attempt to heal or cure, to manage in the application of remedies" (1781). Related: Treated; treating.